Choosing a smartphone is a life-altering decision. With a 2-year contract that ties you down to that particular phone, it is best for one to be prepared and find that particular phone that will serve you well for at least a year. Yet, the real decision maker when it comes to choosing a smartphone is not the hardware, nor the service provider.
An annual study by TNS, dubbed as Mobile Life, has shown that the operating system is a key component in choosing a smartphone. While only 10% of the respondents from a global survey pegged the OS as a definitive consideration when it comes to a smartphone purchase, Singaporeans feel more strongly with 24% of the local populace sharing that sentiment. This is undeniably a sign that the Singapore crowd keeps its eyes sharp on the actual trends when it comes to the smartphone situation. So the question is, which smartphone OS is a perfect fit for your needs?
To date, the two dominant mobile operating systems (OS) belong to Apple and Google. The former's Apple iOS platform is wildly popular, while the latter's Google Android OS comes a close second thanks to a strong device portfolio from the likes of Samsung, HTC, LG and Sony Ericsson. If you belong to the iOS camp, the choice is quite clear-cut, given that there's only one relatively new device to choose from – the Apple iPhone 4.
However, if your budget doesn't allow you to go for the lowest tier iPhone 4 at S$888, the next step is to look at Android devices that are segmented to entry-level, mid-range and high-end categories. While Android isn't a clear winner in the apps race at just over 150,000 (Apple has over 350,000 as of now), its open-source roots and freedom to customize is a definite pull factor for those who like to tinker with their smartphones. To have a clearer understanding of the latest Android 2.3 platform, you can check out our Android 2.3 guide.
Microsoft Windows Phone 7
Lest you think that's all, there's more. Microsoft has been keeping itself busy with their Windows Phone 7 platform. Starting off the year with a promised copy-and-paste update, there will be more updates along the way, including Twitter integration into the People hub, and more importantly, multi-tasking. The only downside is, Windows Phone 7 devices aren't aplenty, compared to the Android portfolio. But this could change in 2012, when the Nokia-Microsoft alliance produces Windows Phone 7 devices made by the Finnish company. Yes, the updates are aplenty, but the Windows Phone 7 platform is more suitable for those who wish to enjoy the tight integration between your mobile device with Microsoft's Windows Live services, specifically its Xbox Live account.
BlackBerry OS and HP webOS
What of the BlackBerry OS and the new entry, HP webOS? Surely, there are still many who stand by Research in Motion's business-centric BlackBerry platform. Of late, we've also seen how the company is targeting the consumer segment with its updated BlackBerry OS 6. To date, there've been numerous BlackBerry devices joining the touch screen family, and its apps collection is still growing, though not as quickly as the two dominant mobile OSes. This puts the BlackBerry OS 6 on a status quo situation, which is particularly unable to outclass the iOS and Android platform in the immediate future.
As for HP's webOS, it's definitely a fresh perspective from all the news we've heard about iOS and Android, promising an even tighter integration between the mobile and PC platform. Against the competition, the webOS platform might seem insignificant, but the potential for growth is definitely there for the new mobile OS borne from the Palm legacy.
A Final Note
Smartphones are essentially convergent devices. It's a phone, a multimedia player, a web browser, a wireless modem, a gaming (sort of) console, camera and many more. With a smartphone ownership of 72% in Singapore, it's even more important for one to know the advantages and pitfalls of each mobile OS. Along the way, compromises will most probably be made. The truth is, no single mobile OS is able to cater to all your needs. But surely, you should find a middle ground that gives you the best choice for a smartphone that's just right for you. So what's your favorite mobile OS, and will you stay with it or make the jump to a whole new platform?
Seow Tein Hee / Former Associate Editor
Attuned to the latest mobile technology and news, Tein Hee is always on the lookout for innovation and creativity in the mobile industry.